Many people report feelings of sadness during the long, dark, cold winter months. It is so common, that it has been classified as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Dr. Lisa Tabrizi, Naturopath, talks about SAD and how we can boost our mood naturally this time of year! Before you continue, sign up for our email newsletter here to get expert content on this and other health conditions!
SAD is defined by the Mayo Clinic as a type of depression that occurs annually. Most commonly, SAD begins in autumn and continues into winter. Are you starting to wonder if you, or someone you know, might be experiencing SAD? Symptoms of SAD include: fatigue, low mood, anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, weight gain, increased sleep time, lethargy, carbohydrate cravings, and low motivation. Sound familiar? Read on!
While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, there are several factors that may contribute to its development. Typically, SAD is seen more frequently in countries at latitudes closer to the poles, which have shortened hours of daylight in the winter months as well as colder climates. In comparison, countries closer to the Equator have lower rates of SAD. Decreased daylight lowers UV light exposure which then leads to lower levels of vitamin D and may then predispose individuals to SAD.
Females and those with an underlying mental health issue or addiction also may be at a higher risk of SAD. One risk factor that is surprising is age. Higher rates of SAD are seen in younger adults and incidence decreases with age.
So, what can you do to help protect yourself from SAD? The answer is, LOTS! While moving to the tropics may sound like a good idea, it’s unfortunately not feasible for most of us. Luckily there are natural things you can do to lift your spirits, stabilize your mood and allow room for more energy and joy in your life.
Physical activity is one of the best treatments to benefit mood and lift feelings of depression. Research studies have documented the importance of being out in nature regularly. So get outside and get moving! Go for a winter hike or walk, skate, snowshoe, toboggan, or ski. Remember to wear extra layers so you stay warm. If you choose to stay indoors consider activities like dancing, swimming or attending an aerobics class at your local gym/community centre.
Choose your nutrition mindfully!
Help stabilize your mood by ensuring you have a healthy serving of protein at each meal, such as chicken, fish, raw nuts/seeds, or legumes. Protein is an important building block for neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which can help boost your mood, curb carb cravings, and stabilize your blood sugar. Make your veggies count and include a variety of vegetables in your diet as they contain many mood-boosting vitamins and minerals. They should make up half your plate at every meal. Eliminate processed and packaged foods as they contain unnecessary chemicals and are devoid of nutrients and minerals that your body actually needs.
Decide what to drink!
Hydrate with water, herbal teas and/or green tea. Ginger tea is a great herbal tea to warm you up after being out in the cold. Siberian ginseng is an herbal tea that can help boost energy and vitality in the body. Green tea contains the amino acid L-theanine, which helps to keep you alert, yet relaxed and is a great choice for anyone who has issues with concentration and focus.
Some individuals may require mega doses of specific nutrients to help stabilize their mood. High potency fish oil that includes a high concentration of the omega-3 fatty acid, EPA, repeatedly demonstrates benefits to mood. B12 and melatonin are important regulators for our circadian rhythm (also known as our sleep-wake cycle) and may also help. Speak to a naturopathic doctor to find out what supplements and doses are right for you.
Ask for help!
Maintain contact with your support network of close friends and family. Talk to your naturopathic or medical doctor as we are trained and here to support you! If you are feeling hopeless or experiencing thoughts of suicide please talk to your health care provider immediately. Know that you are not alone!
Use this time to rest more!
Accept the natural rhythm of the winter months. Animals and plants hibernate or go dormant, we can too! Give yourself permission to rest, relax, and rejuvenate. Have a warm bath in Epsom salts, do some deep breathing, meditate, or take a nap.
Dr. Lisa Tabrizi is a naturopathic doctor in Hamilton. She frequently works with people with mood disorders including SAD as well as individuals striving for more health and balance in their lives. For more information, please contact Dr. Lisa at Innova Health Clinic at 905-389-9489 or visit LisaTND.com. .
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